The Memphis Grizzlies (7-6) are one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now after winning five-straight games. Ja Morant, last season’s Rookie of the Year, returned to the lineup after missing eight games with a sprained ankle.
Morant averaged 17 points in both of his games since returning from the IL. He averaged 36 points in his first two games of the season, including a 44-point game in the season opener against the San Antonio Spurs. Morant suffered a grade 2 sprained ankle in the third game of the season.
The Grizzlies selected Morant with the #2 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Zion Williamson, the top pick, injured his knee in the preseason and missed the start of the season. By the time Zion made his pro debut, Morant had the inside track to winning Rookie of the Year. Morant started 67 games last season and averaged 17.8 ppg, 7.3 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game.
The Grizzlies qualified for the play-in game in the Western Conference to determine the #8 seed. However, the Griz lost to the Portland Trail Blazers and were eliminated from the NBA Bubble.
Ja Speedy Recovery
Initial reports suggested Morant could miss up to five weeks, which would have kept him off the floor until after the Super Bowl in February. He only missed 2.5 weeks and wanted to come back earlier, but the training staff wanted him to wait until he fully healed before he returned to the hardwood.
Morant scored 17 points and dished for six assists against the Philadelphia 76ers in his first game back. He missed all three of his 3-point shots. He shot 7-for-11 from the rest of the floor.
“It felt good, starting with just being able to get back out there on the floor after being out almost three weeks,” Morant said. “I was really just itching to get back out there. I love this group.”
“Ja is a huge competitor and we’re just a better team when he’s on the floor,” said Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins. “I’m proud of our guys the last couple weeks that stepped up and filled in for our floor leader. Our bench has been highly productive and took advantage of playing opportunities, and showed toughness on both ends of the court.”
Grind City Win Streak
After starting the season 2-6, the Grizzlies went on a 5-0 heater and improve to 7-6. They’re above .500 for the first time this season thanks to solid defense. The Grizzlies are ranked #7 in fewest points allowed at 107.6 ppg.
The Grizzlies pulled off back-to-back wins against playoff-type squads. The Griz edged out a short-handed Philadelphia 106-104 over the weekend. The Sixers didn’t have Joel Embiid or Seth Curry. Memphis’ bench scored 47 points with three reserves contributing double digits: Xavier Tilman (15 points), Grayson Allen (12), and Desmond Bane (10).
On Martin Luther King Day, the Griz held off the Phoenix Suns 108-104. The defense limited Phoenix gunner Devin Booker to only 12 points on 5-for-21 shooting.
Morant was tied for the team lead in scoring with 17 points, but checked all the stat boxes with 10 assists, three rebounds, two steals, and one block.
The bench stepped up with 49 points against the Suns. Grayson Allen added 16 points off the bench in the win, including a big trey down the stretch.